Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘permanent’

Choose Greater Happiness!

Is happiness a learned behavior? What makes some people more resilient, more energetic and just happier be to around? The good news is that we are all capable of becoming happier individuals by following what Dr. Martin Seligman, a psychologist, educator and author, calls learned optimism. He has found that the talent for joy in our lives can actually be something we can teach and cultivate ourselves. Now that’s something to celebrate!

Although Seligman started out studying learned helplessness he discovered that examining why some people were happier in life would be an even greater contribution to the field. Through rigorous research he came up with a simple yet powerful approach that we can utilize to improve our lives. Seligman instructs us to be brutally honest and examine how we view the events or challenges in our life from the perspective of the 3 P’s (permanent – pervasive – personal).

For example, we have all been cut off while driving in traffic. The optimist views the situation as an isolated event and may even think that the driver of the other car may have had an emergency or simply made a mistake. They view the minor hassle as something that will pass and don’t allow it to ill effect their overall attitude or day. Their attitude could best be summarized by, ‘this too shall pass.’

The pessimist, on the other hand starts a diatribe of self talk and views the traffic incident as yet another example that ALWAYS happens to him (personal). He goes on to further generalize that most other people are just basically bad or inconsiderate drivers (pervasive). Soon, the mere act of driving for the pessimist can become a permanent, negative experience which elicits more aggressive tendencies. The pessimist thinks to himself, ‘this always happens to me’ (permanent).

When you think about viewing events in our lives as temporary, isolated and due to causes frequently beyond our control it becomes easier to view the bumps in the road of life as minor ones which will pass. However, when we look at the same event as permanent, pervasive and personal we can easily fall into the trap of overall pessimist thinking. When this happens our negative energy begins to envelop our entire attitude in life and we begin to actually expect more negative experiences. As we know from the law of attraction what we think about most often comes back to us double fold. We become an energy drain on others and soon become too exhausting to be around.

The good news is that research from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton and elsewhere is clear – we can become more positive, productive and energetic people by practicing learned optimism. We all have our share of life challenges. We may think others have an easier life but we have never walked a mile in their shoes. When we begin to view our own life challenges as temporary and not a pervasive indicator of life yet to come we gain more confidence and energy to face our tomorrows.

When we practice learned optimism it helps us keep life in perspective as we refuse to allow ourselves to make mountains out of mole hills. The research is clear, we can significantly reduce depression and anxiety by practicing optimism. It staves off feelings of helplessness and actually gives us a reason to look forward to tomorrow.

Once we choose to examine our own thinking patterns and begin over time to practice learned optimism it becomes an ingrained way of thinking. The temporary challenges we all face in life are kept in perspective and we find ourselves more confident in our own ability to weather the storms in life. As a result, other people want to be around us because they feel energized in our presence. That’s a good feeling!

With everything in life we have a choice. Is it time to reevaluate our thinking and decide to become more optimistic individuals? Life really can be greater than the sum of its parts.

Have a great few days!

Choose Greater Happiness!

In my Sunday blog I talked about the decades of research done by Dr. Martin Seligman on the topic of happiness. Looking at both happiness and unhappiness he discovered many interesting factors that can serve as a guide to us. For instance, he found that unhappy people have three traits in common in their thinking. When facing a challenge they see it as PERMANENT (My life will never change), PERVASIVE (Everything in my life seems hopeless – it feels like my life is one crisis after another and I never get a break) and PERSONAL (I can’t do anything right – there is something lacking in me). They see themselves as a victim in life. With this mind set they continually draw more negative energy to them like a magnet. The Universe delivers to them what is foremost in their thinking.

Factors that Do Not Increase Happiness
Being wealthy is not the answer to happiness. Beyond a certain level of income (being able to pay your monthly bills, and save a little for a rainy day) additional money does not generate greater happiness. He cites the classic example of large lottery winners. One year after winning, their happiness index is the same as before their win. “How important money is to you, more than the money itself, influences your happiness.” Regardless of how much money you have if you constantly worry about spending any, regardless of the amount you have, it will never be enough and it doesn’t bring you happiness. Even Illness does not affect our happiness level unless we have multiple illnesses over a long period of time. Many people talk about wanting to live where the weather is mild year round. However, climate doesn’t have an effect on happiness either. For those who experience the cold, snowy filled winters they simply learn to adapt and learn to look forward to the beauty of the changing seasons.

Factors That Do Increases Happiness
A belief system that gives us hope for the future is important. With a sense of hope we make the most out of what we have been given and learn and grow in the process. A strong social network helps us stay connected and expands the world beyond ourselves. The most CRUCIAL aspect for achieving greater happiness according to the research is developing our own personal strengths of CHARACTER. Attributes such as love, loyalty, courage, integrity, fairness and spirituality are VERY important. They give us a feeling of confidence and optimism about life. When we face an obstacle and persevere to overcome it, we realize that we are a strong, competent individual. As Dr. Seligman says, “When life is easy is requires zero growth from us. A real life is one where we seek out and (positively) respond to the constant challenges in our life. A life of pleasure makes us a Spector not an Engager with life.”

Authentic happiness doesn’t happen quickly since it involves our daily choices of how we think, feel, and react. We can choose to see our cups as half empty and remain thirsty – the perpetual pessimist – or half full and grateful for the amount which will quench our thirst – the true optimist. The amount in the cup is the same but the perspective we bring to it determines our level of happiness. With free will we are in total control of our happiness level. We can choose to use it and view challenges in the frame of – ‘why not make tomorrow a better day by searching for the lessons of today’ or reduce our happiness level by thinking ‘why bother it won’t matter anyway.’

Over the next few days check yourself. Are you engaged in life, happy for another day to accomplish things and learn life lessons along the way? If not, you can choose to change your perspective and change your life. Greater happiness is really just a thought away.

Have a great few days!

Achieve Greater Happiness in Your Life!

Dr. Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychology Association and professor at the University of Pennsylvania authored over 20 books on the topic of positive psychology. His research on how to increase our happiness in life is well worth considering. Over the next few blogs I will get into the topic of happiness in greater depth but for now let’s start with a summation of his research to spark your interest.

Basically, he tells us that unhappy people look at problems as PERMANENT, PERVASIVE and PERSONAL – the 3 P’s – which result in feelings of learned helplessness. We know from other authors that when people feel hopeless and helpless they simply stop trying in life. Their fear takes over and causes them to accept ‘what is’ in life rather than looking at ‘what could be.’ Their lives are on permanent pause which draws more negative energy to them with each new day. Their feelings and belief that tomorrow will merely be a repeat of today overrides any thought about positive change.

Let’s apply what Seligman teaches us to change this scenario. Assume a negative experience is happening in your life. It is important to recognize that it is ONE experience and keep it in perspective. You just have to keep your head down and continue to push forward to get through it. We can’t allow our thinking to go from zero to 180 and believe that our entire life is now headed in a downward spiral because we are facing adversity at the moment. Unhappy people, do just that however. Their thinking on a negative experience is that it is PERMANENT. “My life will never change,” they think to themselves, and The Universe, ever ready to deliver what is foremost in their thoughts, presents even more challenges to them because they are in a perpetual state of negative thinking and simply waiting for the next shoe to drop. Their lives seem to be one crisis after another.

Dr. Seligman’s second point is again meant to help us keep perspective by realizing that the present challenge is ONE issue and not PERVASIVE throughout our entire life. The concern is real but it is the type of thought that we attach to it that sometimes gets us out of balance. The present challenge doesn’t mean that everything in our life is hopeless. Keep the issue in a mental compartment in your mind and deal with it accordingly. Don’t let in seep into and negatively affect everything else in your life. Unhappy people, on the other hand, look at the issue and think to themselves, “I can’t do anything right.” They believe that they are helpless, a constant victim of circumstance, and that there will be more to follow tomorrow.

Seligman’s third point is that unhappy people feel that the challenge at the moment is PERSONAL (it’s my fault) which may or may not be true on this particular issue. But unhappy people do not stop with the issue at hand and make a plan to do things differently in the future. They over generalize and think there is really something wrong with them. They then become immobilized by thinking that they are weak and unsuccessful in dealing with problems in life which deepens their feelings of insecurity and lack of self confidence.

To recap, to attain greater happiness in life we need to practice viewing the challenges that surface in our lives as temporary – you will get through them. Not personal – there is nothing inherently wrong with you and you do have the strength to overcome any issue. You will determine how this problem developed and IF it was your issue you will determine what you will do the next time to prevent the same kind of issue from happening. Finally,we need to remember that challenges are meant to teach us something. They are not meant to be viewed as pervasive throughout our entire life time. We are too smart to accept that type of thinking. Remember the Universal Energy first whispers, then speaks and ultimately shouts to get our attention. The next time a challenge surfaces in your life keep it in perspective and know you can get through it and learn from it. Greater happiness results by learning to avoid the 3 P’s in our thinking.

Have a great few days!